Fourteen Popes were elected during the first half of the tenth century from Pope Benedict IX in 900 to Pope Agapitus II who died in October of 955.
In January of 900 Benedict IX succeeded Pope John IX as the 117th successor of Peter. His pontificate would last only three years, but compared to many of those who would follow, that was a relatively long time. He was born in Rome and was a compromise choice of the warring factions that had made a shambles of the papacy from Formosus on during the entire previous decade. To assure there would be justice in future papal elections, Benedict insisted on maintaining the integrity of the Holy See and sought the help of Louis of Borgogna who he crowned as Holy Roman Emperor in Rome. He died in July 903.
He was succeeded the very same month by Pope Leo V who was born in Ardea. His very brief two month papacy would end in his being assassinated by rioters as Rome was once again thrown into tumult. So vicious were his attackers that they torched his body and cast his ashes into the Tiber River in September 903.
Because of the insurrections, no Pontiff was elected until the following January 29th when Pope Sergius III was chosen to head the Church. He had a major job on his hand, with the Basilica of Saint John Lateran having been destroyed by fire by the rioters. Therefore, he ordered it rebuilt and then turned his attention to toward defending the rights of the Church against the greedy feudal lords of the time for we were now in the height of medieval time, the heart of the dark ages. It was during Sergius' reign that the Papal Tiara first was displayed.
Sergius' reign lasted seven years and he was a breath of fresh air after previous Popes. He passed away on April 14, 911.
He was followed by Pope Anastasius III as the 120th in the line of Peter in April 911 and his rule lasted two years until June 913 when intrigue and dastardly deeds returned to haunt the Vatican. The one bright light during his papacy was the conversion of the most skillful and daring of all the Norman chiefs Robert which would open the door to protecting the West-Frankish empire from invations by other Normans. This would lead to the great French Benedictine monastery at Cluny which had actually been founded in 910 under Sergius III by William, Duke of Aquitaine. It would become a center of monastic and ecclesiastical reform. Back in Rome, the internal disorders, which Sergius was able to curb, rose anew under Anastasius and he also had to contend with the Eastern Emperor Berengarius I. Anastasius was poisoned with the suspects being varied possibilities.
Pope Lando from Sabina was the choice immediately after Anastasius' death and he ruled until February 914. His election was the result of one family gaining power and intimidating the others to elect Lando, but he, like Anastasius III, died mysteriously amid rumors he was murdered.
With the election the next month of Pope John X stability returned to the papal throne for this man, also elected by various factions, came from Tossignano and was not a Roman by birth. His papacy lasted fourteen years, phenomenal for those times. Practically his whole pontificate was embroiled with either quelling Roman uprising or fending off the Saracens. He led an army to the Garigliano River where his troops vanquished the infidels sending them fleeing from central and southern Italy, but his own fate ended with him being imprisoned and murdered there because he would not be part of the corruption of the various Roman factions. He died in May 928.
His successor was the Roman-born Pope Leo VI who returned to the short reigns when his papacy lasted only eight months from May to December 928. He was elected through the machinations of one of the more powerful lords among the Roman factions Marozoia. Despite the fact he was a puppet pope of this family leader, Leo strove to restore peace among the warring factions. Though he was not successful there, he was able to copy the success of his predecessor by routing the Saracens and then followed that up with a stunning victory over the ferocious Hungarians from the North.
Another Roman-born prelate Pope Stephen VII was elected in December 928 when the counts of Tuscolo wrested control of the votes over Marozoia. Stephen's pontificate lasted two years and two months during which he supported the growth of monasteries such as St. Vincent at Volturno and two cenobites in Gaul. He passed on in February 931.
Stephen was succeeded a month later by one of the youngest Popes ever elected, if not the youngest. He was Roman-born Pope John XI, the son of a powerful family lord of Rome. He was 25 when he was elected as the 125th successor of Peter, and, despite his youth and the fact it was their vote that garnered him the papal throne, he exhibited wisdom in trying to bring peace to the sparring families of Rome and be a fair Pope. Because he could not be controlled he was subjected to beatings and intimidation by family members and died at the very young age of 29 in December 935 from complications developed from his persecutions. Many believed it was of a blood clot from one of the beatings that developed into an aneurism.
For next three years the Holy See would be ruled by Pope Leo VII who was elected a few weeks after John XI's death. Leo was a monk himself and reforming and reorganizing monastic life was dear to his heart. He had the ancient Cenobite outside the walls near St. Paul Basilica rebuilt as well as many others in and around Rome and elsewhere. With the dark ages more and more superstitions took center stage and in order to curb them he ordered the bishops in France and Germany to condemn witches and fortune tellers for their omens were from the evil one, not God. Leo died on July 13, 939.
Following Leo was another Roman, Pope Stephen VIII who was elected the next day on July 14, 939. With the Roman families in an uneasy ceasefire truce, he turned his attention, like his predecessor, to other parts of the Christian world in supporting Louis IV d'Oltremare against the rebelling vassals among the Franks. He also did everything he could to convert the powerful lords in both the East and West, preaching the necessity of the Gospel as their only sword. Because of his pacifying nature, Stephen was fodder in the hands of the arrogant Alberic II. He was greatly saddened at the death of Saint Odo, Abbot of Cluny. Stephen VIII died shortly after Odo's death of natural causes in October 942.
Another Roman followed Stephen on October 30, 942. He was Pope Marinus II whose pontificate lasted four years. Like his two predecessors, he was a good and holy Pope who emphasized moral turpitude in restoring Rome as the moral capital of the world by being the shining example to all of how to live a virtuous life. He also refurbished part of Rome through the employment of craftsmen for he was a great patron of the Arts. He made several modifications to the Ecclesiastical rules of Religious Orders. Marinus died in May 946.
The final Roman Pontiff of the first half of the century was Pope Agapitus II, another Roman by birth, who was elected the 129th in the line of Peter on May 10, 946. Just as his predecessor had done, Agapitus made it a point of his papacy to raise the moral conditions of the clergy throughout Christendom. He also was a man of peace, opting for negotiations with Otto I of Germany to heal the rift with various warring regions of Italy. He is also responsible for King Harold of Denmark converting to Christianity. He also appointed Hierotheus as the first bishop of the Hungarians before he died in October 955.